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Nursing Career Paths: DoulaAre You Cut Out to Be a Doula?

Nursing is a diverse profession, and once you obtain your BSN the possibilities are endless. If you’re fascinated by the miracle of birth and eager to help families safely invite newborns into the world, you could be an excellent candidate for a midwife or doula position.

What Does a Doula Do?
Doulas play an essential role in childbirth. They provide much-needed physical and emotional support prior to, during, and after delivery. Their feedback and on-the-spot assistance ensures a safer and healthier experience for both mother and child. Numerous studies indicate that mothers who work with doulas enjoy greater wellbeing, in part because they feel informed and empowered throughout pregnancy and in its aftermath.

Although doulas are often associated with labor and the act of giving birth, many specialize in the lead-up to childbirth, while others focus on postpartum concerns. In general, the relationship between doula and mother begins well before birth, with most meeting months in advance.

Doulas encourage mothers to take an active role in their pregnancy and the birth of their children. This means developing a birth plan based on their own unique desires and expectations. Although doulas can provide targeted feedback on birth plans, the mothers with whom they work retain control.

Doulas work in a variety of settings, but most have some sort of clinic or office in which they can consult with patients. They may accompany patients during home births or in the hospital. A lot depends on each patient’s preferences; the doula primarily provides support.

What Type of Education Is Needed to Be a Doula?
Doula training is often extensive, but requirements for entering the profession are typically not as stringent as for nursing in general. Most doulas enroll in certification courses or workshops, ideally approved by Doulas of North America (DONA) or other respected organizations. Many enter the profession with two- or four-year nursing degrees; this additional education provides a much-needed sense of solace for skeptical patients and allows doulas to command higher rates. Those who serve as nursing midwives on established health care teams require more advanced education than doulas operating independently.

Ideal Personality Traits for Doulas
Regardless of education, not everyone is cut out to be a doula. Compassion is essential, as is a desire to grant greater control to mothers. The ideal doula has a nurturing personality and a clear sense of empathy. Doulas must be able to easily relate to and connect with mothers — a strong doula-mother relationship is paramount. The best doulas are also able to roll with the punches; they know that not everything will go according to plan, but they’re comfortable with that, and capable of responding in a way that will most benefit stressed mothers.

Job Outlook and Wages
The outlook for doulas is promising, especially as mothers seek greater control while preparing for childbirth. Just three percent of women hired doulas in 2006, but this figure increased to six percent by 2012. Demand is expected to rise further in years to come.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide specific information on employment for doulas, but it does highlight nurse midwives as having median annual wages of $99,770. Wages for nurse midwives can vary somewhat based on work location; midwives earn more if they work in outpatient care centers or for local government entities.

If you’re a registered nurse with an interest in childbirth and a nurturing personality, you could make a wonderful midwife or doula. Participation in an RN to BSN program can greatly expand your career opportunities.